Friday, October 29, 2010

Patron Saint of pilgrims and guides

Bona of Pisa (c. 1156 – 1207)
Info and Photo Wiki
When I was planning the amaWalkers guided walk to Santiago, I thought it would be nice to have a patron saint for our group.  I did a search on the internet and came up with Saint Bona of Pisa, a 12th c saint who led 10 groups of pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. 
At a young age she saw a vision of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and three saints,  including James the Greater. She was frightened by the light around these figures, and ran away. James pursued her, and led her back to the image of Jesus. Bona observed a pronounced devotion to James for the rest of her life.
After leading her first group of pilgrims to Santiago she was made an official guide by the Knights of Santiago. She went on to lead 8 more groups and despite being ill she lead a 10th group and died at the age of 51 shortly after returning home.   Saint Bona is regarded as the patron saint of travellers, and specifically couriers, guides, pilgrims, travellers, flight attendants, and, of course, the city of Pisa.

Yesterday I discovered that her her feast day is celebrated on May 29 - the day our walking holiday starts from Roncesvalles! Is that synchronicity, or what?

Plans are going well for the walk and I have such a good feeling about it! Besides walking the three sections of the Camino we will have time for extra excurisons - to see the castle at Clavijo, where Santiago was first seen on his white horse fighting off the Moors and so became known as Santiago Matamoros: we'll have breakfast at O Cebreiro on our way to Sarria and we'll visit 'Las Meduals", the remains of the most important gold mine in the Roman Empire. We are planning on doing a Nocturnal Walking Tour of Santiago's old town culminating in a visit to a club for a Queimada and a Sunset trip to Finisterre with wine and tapas to celebrate the end of our walk.

Most of the hotels, inns, apartments, private albergues have been booked or chosen and we will take the Chu-chu tourist trains in Burgos, Leon and Santiago.  We only have two places left on the walk - with 4 friends waiting for a slot for four. 

Friday, October 01, 2010



Over the years people have asked me if I would organise and guide a group of people on the camino but I've resisted the temptation - until now. 
I've organised and planned countless camino walks for other people - telling them exactly how to reach their starting point, planning their daily walking stages, giving them links to bus and train schedules, and finding suitable accommodation. 
I realised that for the past 9 years I have been organising and leading groups of friends (and their friends) on different walks in Europe.

In 2001 I was the group leader of 10 people on a walk across England on the Coast to Coast. I was the liaison person between accommodation bookers and luggage transfers. I organsied the logistics of getting there from London and back again. I also organised a holiday in Egypt following on from the CtoC walk.

In 2002 I led three of us on the Camino Frances from Roncesvalles to Santiago doing all the planning and booking of trains and planes

In 2004 I organised a trip to London, Paris and a walk on the Via
Turonensis from Orleans to Pamplona, hired car to Lugo - booked accommodation in England, 35 nights in France, and 5 places along the way in Spain

In 2006 I was the organiser and group leader of 5 people on the Via Francigena from Lake Lausanne to Rome, leaving out a 200km section between Ivrea and Parma. I booked accommodation for 5 people for 30 nights and did all the bookings for planes, trains and a
ferry journey across Lac Leman.

In 2007 I again led a group of 3 on the Camino Frances from Roncesvalles to Santiago, arranged for a hired car from Santiago and booked accommodation so that we could drive back to
Pamplona stopping overnight at various places (Lugo, Oviedo, Castrojeriz, Santo Domingo do Silas, Roncesvalles). I even ended up being the designated driver!

In 2009 I organised a walk for 3 people from Lourdes to Somport; the Aragones Route to Pamplona, Camino Ingles to Santiago and a walk to Finisterre.
This one was a little tricky because one person only had two weeks leave so had to fly home from Pamlona. Two of us got a train to Lugo and spent a night there before travelling to el Ferrol where we walked the Camino Inles back to Santiago.
Then my companion went home while I walked on Finisterre, after which I served at the San Roque albergue in Corcubion for two weeks.

Amawalkers on the Camino
In March this year I spent a long weekend with a kindred spirit and fellow camino addict, Pam Stern, in Cape Town. We spoke about taking small groups of people on the Camino and by the time I left we had it all worked out!

This week we finalised the formation of AMAWALKERS ON THE CAMINO and will start taking small groups of enthusiastic, wanna-be pilgrims on the Camino Frances next year

 I have created a website, drawn up a walking schedule based on the best, most scenic sections of the Camino Frances (the Jacobean Route par excellence!) which will include a visit to St Jean Pied de Port,  drafted Registration, Booking forms and Indemnity forms. I have a spreadsheet with the accommodation and transport details and am now ready to take registrations for a walk from 29th May to 17th June 2011.
These walks will be for people who have a calling to walk the camino but don't want to walk it alone and need help planning a perfect 3 week camino experience.  Pam and I want to share our love and passion for the camino with like-minded people.  We don't want this to be a guided tour as such - rather we want to be mentors, allowing each person on our guided walks to experience the best camino possible.  Although one, or both of us will walk with the group, we want them to have lots of time for contemplation and reflection.  Walking a Camino can be a very spiritual experience and we would like to be facilitators rather than 'tour guides'. 

The walk will include all land arrangements, walking schedules, overnight stops including accommodation, transfers, transport where applicable.  A guide will walk with the group every day but participants don't have to walk with the group if they need alone time.  We will meet up at the end of the day and share our experience.  We will also discuss the following day's route, places we will pass through and what to see.

We have called our walk the 'Best of Both' - you will have the best of tradition and comfort on the camino. 
Join us - numbers are limited to 12 people.

amaWalkers on the Camino will use the services of the Camino Travel Centre which is based in Santiago for accommodation, transport and optional tours.

If you are planning to extend your holiday after the walk and have extra luggage, you can send this to the Camino Travel Centre who will store it for you for a small charge.
The Camino Travel Centre also offer airport transfers - a viable option for a group of 10 or more people.
Their most popular excursions are the Sunset Trips to Finisterre - what could be better than sitting at the End of the World to watch the sun go down over the Atlantic!